How to Set Podcasts to Auto Delete From Your iPod – Updated March 18 2009

ipod I’m writing this in the event there are avid iPod/iTunes podcast users that, like me, didn’t know they can set iTunes to auto-delete podcasts after they have finished with them.

I listen to/watch anywhere from 2 to 10 podcasts every day. For years it has been a pet peeve of mine that I had to use iTunes to manually delete podcasts that I have listened to/watched in order to delete them from the iPod. I couldn’t understand why Apple didn’t provide an option on the iPod to delete podcasts I was finished with.

Turns out that unbeknownst to me, auto-podcast-delete functionality has been there for quite some time – just not how I expected. iTunes has had a function to do exactly what I wanted it to do – auto delete podcasts when finished – since version 4.9.

 Homer - doh!

Note: These instructions are for Windows users. The process may be different on Apple PCs.

[March 17, 2009 Update: The iTunes software has changed since I originally wrote this post. Previously, podcast settings were set ‘across the board’ in the Podcasts tab from the the Edit/Preferences menu. Since the fall of 2008, iTunes allows/requires you to set such preferences for each individual podcast. Hence, I have two “Here’s How” sections below to reflect the changes.]

[March 22, 2009 Update: Josh Baltzell pointed out in the comments section below that there is a delete option on the iPod Touch and the iPhone. When viewing the episodes list on the device, you can swipe from right to left to bring up a red delete button. While it works (ie: deletes the podcast from the list), unfortunately it does not permanently delete the podcast or result in it being deleted in iTunes after the next sync. Indeed, unless you ‘finish’ the podcast (or fast forward to the end after listen) as instructed below, it will return to the list after the next sync.]

Here’s How- in iTunes 8 (post-Fall 2008)

With iTunes 8, there are no longer universal podcast settings. Rather you set your auto-delete and other preferences for each individual podcast as follows.

  • Allow Auto Delete for Each Podcast: First, right click on the podcast that you want to auto-delete and click on the “Allow Auto Delete” item (shown in picture below) from the menu. If the ‘Allow Auto Delete’ option is not available (you will instead see a ‘Do Not Auto Delete’ option) that means auto delete is already permitted for that podcast.

itunes - podcast - allow auto delete

  • Change Podcast Settings: With the podcast in question still highlighted, click the “Settings” button at the bottom of the podcast list.

iTunes 8 - podcast settings button

  • Keep All Unplayed Episodes: On the resulting Podcast Settings screen, make sure ‘Use Default Settings’ is unchecked. Then  select “All unplayed episodes” from the ‘Episodes to keep:” pull-down menu:

iTunes 8 - podcast settings - episodes to keep - all unplayed episodes

That’s pretty much it. Do this again and again for each podcast.

Now, when you have "finished" listening to/watching podcasts, the next time you sync, if you forced the finish (as discussed below) the play count for that podcast will increment to 1 (indicating it has been played) and the podcast will auto deleted from your iPod and iTunes. Note: Don’t forget to read the ‘Two Minor Gotchas” section below.

Here’s How – Pre Fall 2008 iTunes Versions

For those of you still using older iTunes software, on the "podcasts" tab in the the iTunes Edit/Preferences screen select the Keep: "All unplayed Episodes" (circled in red below).

iTunes - keep all unplayed episodes option

That’s pretty much it.

Now, when you have "finished" listening to/watching podcasts, the next time you sync, if you forced the finish (as discussed below), the play count for that podcast will increment to 1 and the podcast will be deleted from your iPod and iTunes.

Two Minor Gotchas

1. Need to Force a "Finish":

You’ll notice I put "finished" in quotes above. The reason is because, your being "finished" with it may not be exactly what iTunes needs for this to work. Read on.

In order to make sure that partially listened-to podcasts aren’t deleted before their time, the iPod will only delete the podcast from your iPod when it has been fully listened to/watched. So, if you are 3/4 the way through a podcast (or stop even a few seconds from the end) iTunes considers that podcast not fully listened-to. So it is left in your iPod list for you to continue listening/watching where you left off.

The problem: I usually stop listening to podcasts a couple minutes before the end. I don’t, for example, usually listen to closing outro music or to the podcaster’s goodbyes. So, when I stop and move on to the next podcast iTunes doesn’t consider this to be a fully listened-to podcast, does not increment the play count to ‘1’ and therefore doesn’t automatically delete it.

Solution: When you are done with a podcast, before moving on to the next podcast, use the iPod’s/iPhone’s fast forward/scrubbing function, to zoom to the end of the finished podcast, thereby forcing the play count to increment to 1. This will result in an auto deletion during your next iPod sync.

2. Auto Delete in iTunes Occurs Only After Next Refresh

While the podcast will be deleted from the iPod on the next sync, it will not be removed from the iTunes podcast list until after the next iTunes podcast refresh.

Solution: If you really care, press the "refresh" button in iTunes after syncing. This will force the refresh which will then delete the fully listened-to podcasts. Otherwise, the solution is patience. Assuming your iTunes is set to refresh the podcast list at least once a day, it shouldn’t take more than a day for fully listened–to podcasts to disappear from the iTunes podcast list.

Bottom Line: If you follow the advice above, you’ll never have to manually delete a podcast again.

A Note About Podcasts on AppleTV

I inadvertently discovered the iPod/iTunes auto-delete functionality when I was looking into whether there is an auto-delete function for video podcasts watched on the AppleTV. Having to manually delete them with my current TiVo video podcast solution was starting to annoy me.

The same rules apply to podcasts watched on Apple TV. If you want synced podcast to delete from your AppleTV, fast forward to the end when finished.

Apple Please Give Us a Delete Button

For years now I have wanted a podcast delete button on my iPod/iPhone/AppleTV.  While there is a delete button option on the iPod Touch and iPhone, as of March 23, 2009 there is no permanent way to delete a podcast from these devices (and ultimately from iTunes) and no such function is planned for the iPhone 3.0 software release due out in summer 2009 that I am aware of. Now that we have ‘copy and paste’ its high-time we get a permanent podcast delete function. Don’t you agree?

Comments

comments

10 Replies to “How to Set Podcasts to Auto Delete From Your iPod – Updated March 18 2009”

  1. Please post a link back here if you write your post. While the inability to delee podcasts on the iPHone and other short comings bug me to no end, I wouldn’t agree that its a godawful MP3 player. It’s the best there is – or at least the best I’ve ever tried out.

  2. Dale, thanks for this posting. I was looking for a way to auto-delete in iPhone and this came up and I learned something new. I’m considering a post myself on what a godawful mp3 player the iPhone is.

  3. Agreed! It would be terrific if we could eliminate the need for iTunes alltogether when it comes to subscribing to podcasts. nnMy only concern with push subscriptions to podcasts on the iPhone is that it can eat into costly bandwidth. In countries with unlimited data, that’s fine. But in Canada where we have data caps, I wouldn’t want my podcasts downloading automatically when I’m roaming. When I’m at home within a WiFi connection I like that idea. nnFunnily, if I do download a podcast on the iPhone that I’m already subscribing too in iTunes, then that results in duplicate subscriptions being synced back to iTunes.nn…Dale

  4. Apple is still figuring out how to have the iPhone OS not be tied to a computer.nnDeleting on an iPhone OS device ought to delete on the iTunes it syncs with (“Do you want to delete this off your iTunes library?” [Cancel / Delete in iTunes / Keep in iTunes]nnMostly, though, I just want to be able to manage the entire thing on my iPhone. Why can’t I get a push notification when a new episode of one of my podcasts is posted? For most of them, I’d download it, listen to/watch it on the iPhone and never once have to get it into iTunes, where I almost never listen to podcasts.n

  5. Agreed, but I would prefer if it said ‘undeleted’ an easy way to delete podcasts we are finished with right on the iPod or the AppleTV.

  6. John, look at the picture above where I circle the ‘Settings’ button beside the ‘Unsubsrcibe’ button. That button appears at the bottom of the iTunes interface. Select the podcast that you want to adjust. Then click on that Settings button. You have to do this separately for EACH podcast if you want the settings to be different from the default.rnrnThere is no Delete button that just shows up on the Ipod Interface on the iPod Touch. You have to be on the episodes page for any podcast then swoosh your finger from right to left on the episode you want to delete. Only then does a red delete button appear. Remember, deleting from the iPod Touch does not, unfortunately delete the episode from iTunes. You’ll still have to do this manuallly if you haven’t adjusted the podcasts settings to keep only unplayed podcasts.

  7. I have iTunes 8.1.1 and a new iPod Touch 2.2.1 (version). I can’t find any delete button on the Touch. I can’t find anything about settings when in podcast on iTunes. Did everything change again???

  8. It’s simple to make a playlist that shows you the most recent 10 unheard podcasts. Then you just play that and it updates automatically on the device without having to synch to refresh the list. rnrnSo that gives me enough choices depending on my mood and I never listen to any of them twice or have to hunt for unplayed ones. rnrnThe trick is to use Genre like “Podcas” or Genre contains “Podca” And Playcount is zero. rnand then the other rules like limit to 10 entries and order by most recently added date. I have specified live update and only checked items. rnrnthat’s a smart playlist to havernrn

  9. Hey Josh … turns out the ‘delete’ button doesn’t get us very far. In my tests, if you hadn’t completely finished the podcast (as described in the post), the deleted podcast will be returned to the iPhone/iPod touch on the next sync. I guess the delete button is a nice addition AFTER you have completed listening to a podcast (or fastforwarded it to the end as instructed above). You can delete it then just to get it off the list of available podcasts.rnrnBut the ‘deleted’ podcast will stay in iTunes and be restored to the iPod if you hadn’t finished. Grrrr

  10. Josh.rnrnYOU ARE MY HERO!!!!rnrnI didn’t know this. You are right! Whoo hoo!!!rnrnSo, do you know if this is now possible on AppleTV?rnrn…Dale

  11. Great timing! Just got my first iPod and was hoping for an autodelete function after years of tedious manual deleting on my non-iPod MP3 players. But I couldn’t find the information you’ve provided in any of the documentation. Many thanks.

    Bruce

  12. It’s not just podcasts – purchased videos too. But like you discovered, you have to sit through the entire thing including the credits. More efficient to just manually delete than to ffwd.

  13. Perhaps if you are sitting in front of or near your computer the time Dave. But if I’m out on the running trail and listening to three or four podcasts, its much easier to ff to the end (which takes a second) than to wade through the 60 or so podcasts sitting in iTunes at any given time to find the one’s I want to delete today.

    Is it really difficult on AppleTV to ff to the end? It takes about a second to do it on the iPod.

  14. Hey Josh … turns out the 'delete' button doesn't get us very far. In my tests, if you hadn't completely finished the podcast (as described in the post), the deleted podcast will be returned to the iPhone/iPod touch on the next sync. I guess the delete button is a nice addition AFTER you have completed listening to a podcast (or fastforwarded it to the end as instructed above). You can delete it then just to get it off the list of available podcasts.

    But the 'deleted' podcast will stay in iTunes and be restored to the iPod if you hadn't finished. Grrrr

  15. It's simple to make a playlist that shows you the most recent 10 unheard podcasts. Then you just play that and it updates automatically on the device without having to synch to refresh the list.

    So that gives me enough choices depending on my mood and I never listen to any of them twice or have to hunt for unplayed ones.

    The trick is to use Genre like “Podcas” or Genre contains “Podca” And Playcount is zero.
    and then the other rules like limit to 10 entries and order by most recently added date. I have specified live update and only checked items.

    that's a smart playlist to have

  16. I have iTunes 8.1.1 and a new iPod Touch 2.2.1 (version). I can't find any delete button on the Touch. I can't find anything about settings when in podcast on iTunes. Did everything change again???

  17. John, look at the picture above where I circle the 'Settings' button beside the 'Unsubsrcibe' button. That button appears at the bottom of the iTunes interface. Select the podcast that you want to adjust. Then click on that Settings button. You have to do this separately for EACH podcast if you want the settings to be different from the default.

    There is no Delete button that just shows up on the Ipod Interface on the iPod Touch. You have to be on the episodes page for any podcast then swoosh your finger from right to left on the episode you want to delete. Only then does a red delete button appear. Remember, deleting from the iPod Touch does not, unfortunately delete the episode from iTunes. You'll still have to do this manuallly if you haven't adjusted the podcasts settings to keep only unplayed podcasts.

  18. I think Apple would cut down on some confusion here if they changed the word “unplayed” to “unfinished.”

  19. Apple is still figuring out how to have the iPhone OS not be tied to a computer.

    Deleting on an iPhone OS device ought to delete on the iTunes it syncs with (“Do you want to delete this off your iTunes library?” [Cancel / Delete in iTunes / Keep in iTunes]

    Mostly, though, I just want to be able to manage the entire thing on my iPhone. Why can't I get a push notification when a new episode of one of my podcasts is posted? For most of them, I'd download it, listen to/watch it on the iPhone and never once have to get it into iTunes, where I almost never listen to podcasts.

  20. Agreed! It would be terrific if we could eliminate the need for iTunes alltogether when it comes to subscribing to podcasts.

    My only concern with push subscriptions to podcasts on the iPhone is that it can eat into costly bandwidth. In countries with unlimited data, that's fine. But in Canada where we have data caps, I wouldn't want my podcasts downloading automatically when I'm roaming. When I'm at home within a WiFi connection I like that idea.

    Funnily, if I do download a podcast on the iPhone that I'm already subscribing too in iTunes, then that results in duplicate subscriptions being synced back to iTunes.

    …Dale

  21. Dale, thanks for this posting. I was looking for a way to auto-delete in iPhone and this came up and I learned something new. I'm considering a post myself on what a godawful mp3 player the iPhone is.

  22. Please post a link back here if you write your post. While the inability to delee podcasts on the iPHone and other short comings bug me to no end, I wouldn't agree that its a godawful MP3 player. It's the best there is – or at least the best I've ever tried out.

  23. Oooh boy! have I been missing this blog post for years!nLike you, I have downloaded over 1000 podcasts by now, without knowing how to auto delete them. The thing is, that was one of my turn on’s when initially subscribing to podcasts, without ever getting the hang of it.nnNow, back to the laboratory!nI cross my fingers that iTunes delete all files and not just from it’s library :0)nnThx a lot!

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